In Person

Periodically in Photo Happenings I post a conversation
with a personality in the photography world in Portland.

A conversation with Marilyn Murdoch

I first met Marilyn at a meeting of picture framers in 1984. That year was the beginning of the curent artistic boom in Portland and there were only thirteen art galleries in the City. It's when I first became involved in the Portland Arts Coummunity, but Marilyn's career had begun several years before that.

My first question to Marilyn was a stock one I use sometimes in a portfolio review, "when did you know that art would be your future?"  

"From a little girl" she quickly answered. She told me she felt that you should do "what you do as a child when nobody is looking"--A pretty simple answer to a complex question.   "I was putting lithos on my bedroom wall and drawing frames around them."  My "Dream Job", she told me, happened in the 1970's when a friend who was working at Chrisman's went on maternity leave.  "I was with Chrisman's for 10 years and stepped out in early 1980's to open my shop in the Multnomah Village."


"I first met Dennis Katayama at a chapter meeting of the Professional Picture Framer's Association in 1984". Dennis had opened his frame shop in 1979 on 21st and Kearney, and he was also sales rep for Larson-Juhl, a major supplier of picure framing materials in the Northwest. "Dennis became my mentor, I started working for him as a picture framer 2 days a week".

"I bought Dennis out in 2005." When Steve Josephsberg closed his gallery he "graciously gave me his customer list, and I hired his two incredible framers."

In 2005 Marilyn opened a gallery at the Wonder Ballroom with Mark Wooley, and another location she called Murdroch Collection on North Vancouver Street.

"Our best show was the Skateboard Photographers", it was rated as the "Best Art Show in the Nation". The show brought in high-profile national skateborders, and Nike flew in photographers for the event. As she began talking about it I remembered going to that show and how packed it was.

So what is the Murdoch Collection, I asked? " I have always believed in artists and friends" she said. "I bought from artists who I did framing for, believing that we all should support others ."

Recently, Murdoch Collections had just finished a two month exhibition of photography, curated by Paul Dahlquist. In January the Murdoch Collection will feature some of her personal works she has collected over the years.

The art market declined during the recession, but Katayama Framing has held on to a dedicated customer base. Alot of collectors "don't buy off the principle, they buy off the interest", and that has had an impact on the art market. Changes are happening in the local art scene with all the new artists. The 1980's brought about a new direction in Portland's fine arts market, perhaps a new cycle is beginning again. "Maybe we're just art dinosaurs " she said.